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3 July, 2018 - 10:57 By Tony Quested

In the footsteps of Hawking: Cambridge app eyes the cosmos

Future STEM students will be able to study particle physics and the cosmos in greater detail than ever thanks to a new app developed by Cambridge Consultants and Durham University.

The innovative iOS app is a fitting memorial to world-renowned Cambridge theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking who died in March.

The app harnesses augmented reality to educate users on what neutrinos are, to visualise where they are produced and to emphasise why they’re so significant to modern science. 

Neutrinos are one of the most important and mysterious particles in the universe. They are produced by many things, including the nuclear fusion processes that power the sun and stars, and may hold the key to how matter evolved after the Big Bang, creating everything around us. Despite this, they are incredibly hard to detect and understand. 

With three educational features, the NeutrinoScope app addresses this lack of understanding in a highly creative and engaging way to attract interest in STEM subjects and careers amongst young people.

The partnership aims to spark interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for students in secondary education and beyond.

After an initial quiz to pique interest, app-users are invited to the “Interact” mode that uses augmented reality to project animated sources of neutrinos onto a flat surface, explaining key facts and behaviours. Users can expect to see sources ranging from a power station to the humble banana. 

Next, the app invites the user to ‘Explore’, showing neutrinos superimposed onto the world around them. Although usually invisible, neutrinos are emitted by many common objects and with the NeutrinoScope app users can see sources create the particles in front of their eyes. 

The app – available now on the Apple App Store – is being showcased at the ‘Ghosts in the Universe’ exhibit at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, which opened on Monday July 2.

Tim Fowler, head of wireless and digital services at Cambridge Consultants said: “Particle physics, and more specifically neutrinos, is an important field of study that is fundamental to our understanding of the world around us.

“We’re delighted to partner with Durham University on this project, leveraging our software development and user experience teams to create a first-of-its-kind app that will aid education on the subject. 

“We’re excited to launch the app and hope it goes some way to inspire the next generation of STEM graduates.” 

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